We’ve come quite a long way since starting this journey together, haven’t we?
You’ve been so kind in allowing me to inundate you with my countless thoughts, opinions, and musings on this franchise, its actors, and its films.
For that I thank you.
Now that our journey is reaching its end, allow me to regale you with one last story: the story of how this Battle of the Bonds came to be…
Believe it or not, the idea for this Battle of the Bonds series has been floating around in my mind for over fifteen years. I first considered putting these countless thoughts, opinions, and musings to the page when I was but fifteen years old, before Daniel Craig had even entered the Double-O picture.
The memory of my very first James Bond film viewing experience is one lost to time and too much wine. I don’t quite remember how old I was, which film it was, or by what method I watched. My pops definitely played his part in the great fatherly tradition of passing on James Bond fandom onto the next generation, but did my very first encounter with Bond take place alongside my dad?
Did I maybe catch fleeting glimpses, while too young to understand what I was watching, sometime before that? Was I flipping channels alone one day and suddenly get tractor-beamed into the greatest secret agent’s intoxicating affairs by mistake?
Who’s to say?
All I know is that my Bond fandom took hold early, and it took hold for good.
At the age of fifteen, the realization that writing was what thrilled me most in life was starting to dawn on me. The knowledge that I liked sharing my opinions with others had been fully realized for some time.
Before I knew it, I was “applying” for an online writing position submitting contributions to PopMatters, an international site of cultural criticism and analysis that, at the time at least, seemed not to dig too deep into the manufactured backgrounds of their freelancers.
I got the “job.”
My time writing for the site was rather short-lived, but I did manage to get a few pieces published (good luck finding them though; trust me, it’s for the best).
This newfound validation via publication got my gears moving on what would ultimately become Battle of the Bonds. I sketched out some outlines and planned initially for the series to debut in the lead-up to Casino Royale but it just never came to fruition. Whether through youth, inexperience, or a general sense of lackadaisical malaise, I never followed through on the project. The email to my editor pitching the idea remained in my drafts folder and the idea was relegated to a back burner in the recesses of my mind.
I wasn’t sure if I’d ever pick the idea back up again.
I’m so glad I did.
Looking back, it’s a good thing laziness won the day, for I would have been far too ill-equipped to tackle such an ambitious undertaking at that time in my life. I think Battle of the Bonds benefitted greatly from the extra fifteen years it spent baking in my mind oven; I surely hope you agree.
It should come as no surprise to hear that Bond revisits are a fairly common occurrence in my life. And while I could have written about these films, these actors, and this franchise purely off memory, I found immense joy rewatching each film once again in preparation for this project.
There was something so significant about merging these joyous revisits, and the innate familiarity I have with these films, with a newfound purpose to critically analyze and academically appraise the franchise and its actors in a deeper, more intentional way than ever before.
Have you ever taken notes while watching one of your favorite films? It’s a surprisingly fulfilling exercise, especially with a cocktail and the love of your life at your side.
Yes, that’s right, I bamboozled, just as I did PopMatters, an extraordinary woman in sharing her life with me. Beautiful, hilarious, and undeniably patient, my partner has sat through these twenty-five films with me time and time again.
Remarkably, she not only tolerates these films but also enjoys them quite a bit! She offers a unique and necessary opinion of the films and their actors as a woman in the world, one that never fails to provide me with a fresh perspective on something I’ve seen countless times.
I’m not sure Battle of the Bonds would be here today if not for her.
As I said at the start of this thing, I know I’m just one drop in a massive sea of Bond fandom, but I took very seriously embarking on the adventure that is now reaching its end. I didn’t want to take any half measures or skimp on any detail. Distilling my thoughts into a sprawling eternal document declaring, once and for all, how I feel about this franchise meant something to me, and I hope you, as a fellow Bond fan, were able to appreciate that passion, no matter how much our opinions may differ.
I’ve sunk a considerable amount of time staring at my laptop, falling down YouTube rabbit holes, digging up decades-old interviews, and becoming increasingly inebriated whilst cranking out these pieces. I’d be a liar to say it’s been anything but a blast; I’d be a liar to say I won’t miss the process.
And it’s all been made better by the feedback I’ve received from fellow Bond fans all around the world. The response to this series has been unexpected, and while I would have awoken this long-dormant idea if only one person ever read it, it fills me with immense gratitude to know that so many of you have stuck around to read my ramblings.
I feel completely overwhelmed and enriched by this experience and I thank you all for humoring me.
So, with all that said, I leave you with my closing rankings for the six Bonds, the twenty-five Bond films (these will change, but I’ll make sure to update as they do), and even a playlist ranking my favorite Bond songs.
I wrap things up with a few closing thoughts on the future of our beloved franchise and the as-yet-unannounced actor set to become the next member of the most exclusive club in film history.
Don’t be a stranger. Stay up on my latest writings and happenings here and on Instagram.
Thanks again for your readership.
Bond Actor Rankings
1. Daniel Craig
It feels like half the fanbase agrees that Daniel Craig is the best Bond and that the other half grows wild in the eye at the very thought. Whether by age, devotion to the source material, or a clutching onto the established idea of Bond like so many pearls, Craig at #1 is controversial to some. It’s a given for me. He’s the best actor with the deepest understanding of the character and his cinematic history in the most well-made films of the franchise. Bow down.
2. Roger Moore
My love for Roger Moore knows no bounds, but he’s not a better James Bond than Daniel Craig in my eyes. That said, there is a sensation akin to the steady warmth of a cozy blanket on a chilly night that washes over me while watching Roger Moore’s films. He’s my childhood favorite, my perpetual pick-me-up, and my go-to comfort Bond. Nobody did it better.
3. Sean Connery
Sean Connery deserves all the praise and respect in the world. Even though he set the tone, and is massively important to the franchise’s enduring presence in the culture, I don’t think Connery played Bond the best and I don’t enjoy his characterization the best. No one gets my gears turning quite like him though, and his successes are undeniable. Things are classic for a reason.
The prospect of a longer Timothy Dalton Bond career is the greatest “What if?” in the franchise’s history. On my bolder days, I rank Dalton higher than Connery. However, the fact that he only has two films to his name really hurts his case for overtaking the iconic innovator from Scotland. If he even had just one more film, he probably would have been my #3. Oh, Dalton, we hardly knew ye…
Was George Lazenby a good actor? No. Was George Lazenby an all-time horndog? Yes! Was George Lazenby a good Bond? Maybe? Lazenby was never going to be as good as Dalton was and is, but he’s right there beside him in terms of coulda-woulda-shoulda scenarios. He’s in one Bond film and that film is one of the most distinct, artfully inventive, emotionally resonant entries in the franchise. Say what you want, but Lazenby went out on top.
I’m sorry Brosnan fans, but I just can’t do it. I get that my age puts me in the sweet spot for Brozz appreciation. I’m fully aware that Brozza was saddled with a slew of shit directors and writers, save for Martin Campbell. The Brozz’s bad luck is not lost on me…and neither is his self-consciousness in the role. No hard feelings, Brozzman.
Bond Film Rankings
14. Dr. No
16. Licence To Kill
17. A View To A Kill
23. Die Another Day
The Future of Bond
So, where do we go from here? And with whom?
Daniel Craig was to Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson what Sean Connery was to Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman: a man they took a chance on that would become synonymous with the James Bond character and lead the franchise to both great success and enormous shoes to fill for the next man up.
You can be sure the modern Bond caretakers are seeking the next Roger Moore to their Connery, not the next George Lazenby.
Wilson turned eighty years old in 2022, so there’s a fair chance this next round of casting will be the last one he’s involved in. 2022 also marks the franchise’s sixtieth anniversary, and with James Bond Day (October 5) falling right around a year after No Time To Die’s release, it stands to reason that our new Bond will be announced sooner rather than later.
Craig’s successor will be a telling sign on where Broccoli and Wilson want to take the franchise moving forward. There’s a whole lot riding on the next Bond decision; I certainly don’t envy their position. They’ve proven their willingness to shake up the preconceived notion of what James Bond looks like with Craig. Will they continue that progressive trend and finally incorporate more representation into the role?
At the time of this writing, actor Regé-Jean Page stands as the odds-on favorite to win the lauded role of the world’s 007th Bond. Call me full of shit if you like, but he’s been my preferred choice since his name first entered the rumor mill. He has the look, he has the dramatic ability, and, as a man of British-Zimbabwean descent, he has the diversity this franchise so desperately needs.
If the next Bond is just another white man, no matter how beloved or dramatically talented that white man might be, I think EON Productions will have missed an opportunity to push the franchise forward and continue the evolution of Bond.
Wade into any internet comment section regarding Page’s Bond candidacy and you will be bombarded with the requisite unchecked racism running wild on social media and internet message boards. There are arguments to be made for why Bond should remain a white man, but I’m not too interested in humoring them here.
Ian Fleming first characterized James Bond in 1953 (so the whiteness wasn’t so much stated as it was assumed and accepted) as an English spy with short black hair and blue-grey eyes.
Connery wasn’t English or blue-eyed, neither was Lazenby. Moore and Craig are capital-E English and capital-B blue-eyed but don’t have black hair. Dalton and Brosnan both looked the part but are Welsh and Irish, respectfully.
I don’t think any of it matters as long as the actor can pull it off. It’s all just made-up rules for a made-up character. Why not try something new when you have the chance? Constant evolution of the James Bond film character from actor to actor is one of the greatest feats of this franchise. Smart money is on that trend continuing and I’m glad it is.
Some think it would be sacrilegious or a slap in the face to Bond’s creator if Bond were to be Black, Brown, Asian, or anything besides white. Why should we give a fuck what Fleming would think anyway? The man is the reason the character exists, sure, but he was also a terrible racist, sexist, and homophobe. Bond has evolved into something far beyond his original foundation, to say nothing of his wildest dreams.
Let’s keep that trajectory aimed upward, shall we?
I truly think Page will be the guy. Big names like Tom Hardy and Henry Cavill remain in the race, but I believe both actors to be far too famous to take on the role. Remember that even though most of our previous Bond actors are now household names, that was far from the case when they began their Bond journey. Having an actor too well-known for other roles in such an iconic role as Bond can really affect the audience’s buy-in and suspension of disbelief. Bringing in an established movie star to play Bond is something the franchise has never done, and I don’t anticipate that trend being upended.
Say what you will of Daniel Craig or No Time To Die, but the most current Bond administration has proven that the franchise is still in the business of blazing new trails with each subsequent entry. In fact, Bond is perhaps the only remaining long-running franchise still interested in pushing its legacy forward, rather than simply cashing in on nostalgia dopamine hits or bringing back classic characters in the most cynically capitalistic of ways.
Through good and bad, Bond refuses to use the past as a crutch, instead choosing to revere the past as a legacy worth living up to and honoring through new, daring, inventive variations on the theme.
It’s one of the many reasons why I love this franchise so much.
Whether it’s Regé-Jean Page or Tom Hardy, Richard Madden or James Norton, Henry Golding, Jamie Dornan, or someone else entirely, I’ll go into the next Bond generation with an open mind and an open heart.
And you had better believe I’ll be ready to provide my thoughts once we have a new film to discuss.
Until next time…